AS we mark the one year lockdown of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, we reflect on the work that has been done to attempt to control the virus in Ceredigion.
From the outset, our priority was to protect the county’s population, minimise who would contract the coronavirus and the number of deaths from it. At the beginning, Public Health Wales projections indicated a reasonable worst case scenario of 600 deaths in the county by June 2020 and this was not acceptable to us.
Ceredigion County Council put in place a strategy that enabled the workforce to work as one team to actively try to suppress the virus. The staff were willing to undertake whatever duties were asked of them and with the co-operation of the citizens of Ceredigion, the worst case scenarios were never realised.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the 72,000 residents of Ceredigion who have adhered heroically to the challenges set by the restrictions and lockdown. We thank the residents of the county for following guidance so rigidly and diligently, ensuring that the number who have been infected by the coronavirus has been kept relatively low.
We have continued to provide a lot of our essential frontline services running for the people of our county. Many of these services have been supported by staff from other services who volunteered to be re-deployed. Their willingness to assist has been essential in maintaining these services, including waste management, supporting our residential care homes and the Childcare Hubs.
The first steps were to get Ceredigion down to its core population, which meant working with tourism sector and the Universities to close their facilities in a controlled and safe manner. We are grateful to those who worked with us to close temporarily, meaning the population was reduced by 35,000.
Prior to the first official lockdown, we closed the doors to our care homes. We worked closely with the private care homes to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable people and have continued to do so. Our ICT Team established video conferencing facilities in the homes to enable the residents to speak with their loved ones on a regular basis.
An initial in-house contact tracing system was developed by the Council at the beginning of April, which was then integrated with the national system. The Contact Tracing Team continues to perform to a high standard – making that critical first contact with the majority of those who have had a positive test result within 24 hours.
Schools have been closed for around eight months of the last year and teachers have adapted to support children and young people to learn remotely. Childcare for children of frontline service workers was provided across the county.
A Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Hub was set up to coordinate the equipment for services within the county. A number of our staff across all secondary schools in Ceredigion produced face-shields. This ensured that this critical element of the coronavirus response was undertaken to keep frontline workers and service users safe.
Grants have been available by Welsh Government with £36.6 million allocated and distributed by the Council staff to Ceredigion businesses who are vital to the economy of the county. Businesses have also been supported and advised by the Public Protection Team in order to ensure compliance with regulations.
Those medically vulnerable and shielding were contacted by Council staff to ensure they were safe and that they received food and medication. 900 locally sourced weekly food boxes were provided to our most vulnerable citizens during the first lockdown. Support was provided to keep the homeless from the streets and in temporary accommodation.
We wanted to create safe, inviting towns for people to come shopping and to enjoy. With the slow easing of the lockdown in the county and with social distancing requirements still being important, it was necessary to make adjustments for public health reasons. Safe zones were implemented in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay in July.
Our support services have ensured that work continued safely and effectively from home. There has been a great deal of communication activity in ensuring that residents and businesses have been receiving key messages in a timely manner through the Council website, on social media and by working in partnership with the local press and media.
From the outset, the Council has worked in close conjunction with the Hywel Dda University Health Board, Dyfed-Powys Police, Aberystwyth University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Coleg Ceredigion, businesses and numerous voluntary and charitable groups to ensure effective collaboration and communication.
We believe that the combination of all of these interventions, as well as many other contributing factors, have played a part in supporting our residents in Ceredigion and may have contributed to the relatively low number of cases in the county.
As a county, we have experienced many challenges over the year with incidents and outbreaks in our communities, in our Care Homes and at Aberystwyth University. However, the willingness of partners to work with us to address these challenges swiftly and decisively has enabled us to control the spread within our communities. We have also had to act quickly to ensure school bubbles and contacts self-isolate when positive cases are identified in schools.
The Council has made swift and decisive decisions and taken action with our partners to minimise the spread of the virus as much as possible to protect the citizens of Ceredigion. We acknowledge the sacrifices that individuals and families have had to make over the last year.
Hywel Dda University Health Board is making good progress with the rollout of the vaccine through the priority groups in Ceredigion, as well as the second dose being provided. They are supported by the Council, Aberystwyth University and of course the volunteers who helped at the Mass Vaccination Centres.
Our focus now is to manage the adjustment phase and the long term resilience of Ceredigion in conjunction with all of our partners, whilst continuing to be vigilant in order to limit any future outbreaks. Work is ongoing to plan for the recovery phase, with the county’s economy a priority. We all hope that the rollout of the vaccine, the decrease in the number of cases and as we approach the summer that things will get back to something closer to ‘normality’.
Again, we extend our thanks to the people of Ceredigion. This has and continues to be a team effort, and the Coronavirus has shown what a team we have in Ceredigion.
Further information relating to the Coronavirus can be found on the Coronavirus pages.